Is this your first time Couchsurfing? Well, no matter if you are a new CS’er or seasoned, I have heard horrible couch request stories from hosts…and yes, some of them come from seasoned surfers as well. As most of you know, I am trying to make Couchsurfing a better community for everyone and want everyone to understand it’s not just a free couch and you ought to be respectful to your host by being a good guest. The first step in building a relationship with your host is sending a proper couch request. It is important to nail this step in order to get a 100% positive response from the host you seek to surf with.
Table of Content
- Things to Keep in Mind before Sending out a Couch Request
- Always Personalize your Couch Request
- Timing is the Key
- Be polite
- Always read your prospective hosts profile properly
- Find out the special word and add something witty to it
- Include information about yourself
- Include information about fellow travelers
- Don’t make your host feel obligated to host you
- For best CouchSurfing Experience, try Smaller Towns
Things to Keep in Mind before Sending out a Couch Request
Always Personalize your Couch Request
NEVER send a canned request or just copy paste your message to all hosts. This is extremely important so your host knows you read their profile properly and are not just looking for a free place to stay (Which you might be, but it’s plain simple rude – they would rather have you book an Airbnb or a cheap guesthouse instead if that’s your motto).
You can personalize your request by referencing hosts with their name but be very careful here and don’t copy paste the same message to 10 other hosts. I have heard of people who have referenced their hosts with incorrect names (it shows they probably sent the same message to several others). This is embarrassing for a surfer to hear, to say the least and puts a bad name to the entire community.
Timing is the Key
Be sure to send your request 3-4 weeks in advance. This will give you ample time to research and find hosts you click with or find alternatives if they are unable to host you. The sweet spot is perhaps 2-3 weeks before your arrival as the hosts will be more aware of their plans for those dates as well. Don’t send a request months in advance as the hosts will probably just ask you to write back closer to your dates.
Don’t demand a couch – request it. There is a huge difference and its sad to see many don’t understand it. An example of a bad couch request (I heard from a seasoned host) – “Hi, I am very tired and I need a place to stay.” What? Really? It is not your hosts fault that you are tired and it’s not a hotel that you just expect people to welcome you into their homes just because you are tired and need a place to crash? You don’t even bother to personalize your request or offer any information about yourself. Always be polite and ask rather then demand – its not your right, its a privilege.
Always read your prospective hosts profile properly
If you are not genuinely interested in the person you are going to live with, then Couchsurfing is just not for you. If you are one of the wiser CS’er, the first thing to do would be to read the hosts profile carefully.
If there is something about their house, profile or anything you read in their references which you found particularly interesting or if you share common interests – don’t forget to mention it in your very first message to the host. This shows you are truly interested in them and not just the fancy bed they might be offering for free.
Find out the special word and add something witty to it
These days many hosts are very wary of what they call the “free loaders” or “copy pasters”. You find so many people who won’t bother to go through the host’s profile page and send a very generic request or one that was meant for someone else entirely. Very bad CS etiquette here. To avoid such surfers, hosts often have a key phrase or word in their “about or home section”. They will clearly ask everyone to mention that word while sending them a request. So make sure you go through the profiles properly and include the magic word – if you do so in a creative or witty way, it’s even better. Shows you are a fun loving and easy going person which would make anyone want to happily host you.
Include information about yourself
Always tell your host who you are, where you come from, who you are traveling with and how long you intend to stay with them. You can include shared interests or any interesting piece of info about yourself. Now, this does not mean you will write an essay but generally 2-3 lines intro about yourself is sufficient and appreciated by hosts.
Include information about fellow travelers
If you are traveling with your husband, sister, a friend or anyone else, please inform your host beforehand. If they are on Couchsurfing too, include their profile URL, if not, include a link to their Facebook or any public social page. This shows you are “Real” people and gives your host more confidence in hosting you. Its a community built on trust but having a stranger in your house can be unnerving if you don’t know anything at all about them -so, don’t give a chance to your host to be skeptical and provide info beforehand.
Don’t make your host feel obligated to host you
Always keep it an open ended request. Something like this works well- “…if you are free on those dates, I would be thrilled to stay with you, if not, no issues and we can meetup over coffee/beer and talk.” Incase your host is already hosting other people or not available, they wont feel obliged and might point you to another host in the area just because you are polite and courteous (these are rare traits, trust me).
For best CouchSurfing Experience, try Smaller Towns
I have noticed that big cities would have a lot of demand for couches which would mean you will me sharing with few people or not get a couch at all. Those long one on one talks with your host, which make Couchsurfing a brilliant experience will just not happen. For example, while in Guangzhou, I decided to simply book a hostel and rather I opted to Couchsurf in a quaint town which is 2 hours away from the bustling city – Nansha. I was thrilled to be hosted in a lavish spacious house by an eminent Couchsurfing ambassador. The couple were super nice and we had lot of time to go on hikes, enjoy nature as well as long leisurely evening talks over drinks.
So, I can pretty much guarantee you a 100% positive response if you follow these simple, basic etiquette while sending a couch request. In short, be nice, personalize, don’t impose and you will be just fine.